Portal:Literature

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The Literature Portal

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Literature is a term that does not have a universally accepted definition, but which has variably included all written work; writing that possesses literary merit; and language that foregrounds literariness, as opposed to ordinary language. Etymologically the term derives from Latin literatura/litteratura "writing formed with letters", although some definitions include spoken or sung texts. Literature can be classified according to whether it is fiction or non-fiction, and whether it is poetry or prose; it can be further distinguished according to major forms such as the novel, short story or drama; and works are often categorised according to historical periods, or according to their adherence to certain aesthetic features or expectations (genre).

Literature may consist of texts based on factual information (journalistic or non-fiction), a category that may also include polemical works, biographies, and reflective essays, or it may consist of texts based on imagination (such as fiction, poetry, or drama). Literature written in poetry emphasizes the aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as sound, symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, ordinary meanings, while literature written in prose applies ordinary grammatical structure and the natural flow of speech. Literature can also be classified according to historical periods, genres, and political influences. While the concept of genre has broadened over the centuries, in general, a genre consists of artistic works that fall within a certain central theme; examples of genre include romance, mystery, crime, fantasy, erotica, and adventure, among others.

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Selected work

First edition cover of The Red Badge of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane. Taking place during the American Civil War, which concluded before Crane was born, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound—a "red badge of courage"—to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer.

The novel is known for its distinctive style, which includes realistic battle sequences as well as the repeated use of color imagery, and ironic tone. Separating itself from a traditional war narrative, Crane's story reflects the inner experience of its protagonist—a soldier fleeing from combat—rather than the external world around him. Also notable for its use of what Crane called a "psychological portrayal of fear", the novel's allegorical and symbolic qualities are often debated by critics. Several of the themes that the story explores are maturation, heroism, cowardice, and the indifference of nature. The Red Badge of Courage garnered widespread acclaim—what H. G. Wells called "an orgy of praise"—shortly after its publication, making Crane an instant celebrity at the age of twenty-four.

Selected figure

Honoré de Balzac on an 1842 daguerreotype
Honoré de Balzac (20 May 1799 – 18 August 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are morally ambiguous. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Eça de Queirós, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac's works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics.

Selected excerpt

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Midas gold2.jpg
Credit: Walter Crane

A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys is a children's book written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in which he rewrites myths from Greek mythology. This illustration is from his retelling of the story of King Midas, who wished for and was granted the ability to turn everything he touched with his hands into gold. In Hawthorne's retelling, among the things Midas turned to gold was his daughter.

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Today in literature

2 September

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Concepts: Biographies · Books · Comics · Magazines · Manga · Novels · Poetry · Short stories
Genres: Alternate history · Children's literature · Crime · Fantasy · Horror · Mythology · Science fiction
Authors: Honoré de Balzac · Roald Dahl · William Shakespeare
Series: Artemis Fowl · Chronicles of Narnia · Discworld · Harry Potter · His Dark Materials · Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy · Inheritance Cycle · James Bond · King Arthur · Middle-earth · Percy Jackson · Redwall · A Series of Unfortunate Events · Shannara · Sherlock Holmes · A Song of Ice and Fire · Star Wars · Sword of Truth · Twilight · Warriors · Water Margin · Wizard of Oz
Regions: Australian literature · Indian literature · Persian literature

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